Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why I Chose the Setting I Did

If you're reading Growing Up Ivy, my latest book, you may be wondering where you might find the town of Larkin, the main setting for Ivy's story. You'll have no difficulty finding some of the other Ontario locations mentioned in the book: Toronto, or Brockville, or the other towns on Frannie's summer theatre circuit. But you won't find Larkin. It's a fictional town, the same way Dillfield and Port Clear are.

Using a fictional setting gives me the freedom I prefer. I don't have to worry about whether or not there was a pants factory in town in 1931, or where the railroad tracks were, in relation to Arthur Road. When I'm working on a novel I'll often draw myself a map of my setting, so that I can remember where the fourth concession intersects the highway and which end of Main Street I located the school on. I get to design the layout of this mythical town the way I want.

When I was writing Growing Up Ivy, I was picturing Larkin being in Prince Edward County, Ontario.  I was a librarian in the County for almost seventeen years and got to know it well. Larkin could easily be any one of a number of small towns there.

But in the end, I had to transport Larkin elsewhere, moving it somewhere east and north of Toronto. The re-location was necessary in order to get the Pechart River to flow in the right direction (south, to Lake Ontario), and because Ivy and Gloria made the journey from Toronto to Larkin on foot. They say that the average person walks about three miles per hour (forget metric; this was 1931). So, if Ivy walked for six hours from, say, Birchcliff, she would have arrived somewhere between Pickering and Ajax. 

Still, the canning factory, the ball diamond where Charlie Bayliss played softball, the one-room school, the shops in town, the river, the strawberry fields -- they are all "the County" in my mind.

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